Gloomy data shoves euro lower ahead of ECB meeting

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LONDON (Reuters) – The euro retreated while stocks and bonds rallied on Thursday, as painful data from France and only modestly better readings from Germany set the tone for the European Central Bank’s first meeting of the year.

FILE PHOTO – A journalist takes a picture of the new 50 Euro banknote with a mobile phone during the presentation of the new bill at the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Progress, or lack of it, in U.S.-China trade talks was also in focus, as were signs of a Brexit delay. Emerging-market bulls were charging in Venezuela after a U.S. move against the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro.

In France, a survey showed business activity pulled back at the fastest rate in over four years in the face of weakening demand and the impact of anti-government protests.

Germany’s services sector accelerated more than expected, but that was largely offset by the first contraction in manufacturing in more than four years.

The euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.1350, and while an upbeat tech sector helped stocks, it meant there would be plenty of concerned questions for European Central Bank President Mario Draghi later.

“At the moment their guidance (to raise interest rates later this year) isn’t really on track,” said JPMorgan Asset Management fixed income portfolio manager Seamus Mac Gorain, although he added it was probably still too early to change them dramatically.

Traders were clearly expecting some comforting words. The ECB will keep its sub-zero interest rates on hold at 1245 GMT and Draghi holds a news conference at 1330 GMT.

Euro zone bond yields fell across the board and France’s gloomy data pushed its 10-year yield down to a six-month low of 0.61 percent. The main market gauge of euro zone inflation expectations dropped to a seven-month low.


Overnight in Asia, the mood was also cautious. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.3 percent, helped by modest gains in China. Japan’s Nikkei eased 0.1 percent.

China had taken positive cues from financial firms’ profits and the approval for a new technology board in Shanghai. Wall Street had also ended higher after upbeat earnings reports, including from IBM.

However, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said in a CNN interview that the U.S. economy might see zero growth in the first quarter if the partial government shutdown lasts the entire quarter.

Japan’s subdued day had also come its export orders fell at the fastest pace in 2 1/2 years, confirming that slower growth is hitting another major developed economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday trade talks with China were going well and China “very much wants to make a deal.”

But sources familiar with the talks say the two sides are still far apart on structural elements critical for a deal.

Analysts at Capital Economics warned that China’s economic slowdown looks set to be of a similar scale to 2015-16, though there are some differences, notably less pressure on the yuan and no signs of major capital outflows.

“Since China makes up 19 percent of the world economy, the slowdown this year compared to last will knock 0.2 percentage points off global growth,” they said.

In currency markets, the dollar rebounded in European trading. It was at 109.70 yen after reaching its high for the year, 110.00 yen against the Japanese currency.

Sterling eased off its 11-week high of almost $1.31 amid growing signs that Brexit was more likely to be delayed than the government risking leaving the European Union without a deal on March 29.

The euro’s latest slide means it has now lost more than 1.5 percent against the U.S. dollar since climbing to a three-month high of $1.1570 on Jan. 10.

FILE PHOTO – A pedestrian looks at various stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

The Australian dollar suffered a setback when one of the country’s major banks raised mortgage rates, bolstering the case for a cut in official rates.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell to 2.746 percent, compared with its U.S. close of 2.755 percent on Wednesday. Oil prices dropped amid concern over slowing global economic growth.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 0.5 percent to $52.38 a barrel. Brent crude futures were last down 0.4 percent at $60.87.

Reporting by Marc Jones, editing by Larry King

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